Shooting the breeze with Roey - Interview with Mark Roe
For all the practical jokes, colourful hats, trick shots and zany
behaviour – and not forgetting a
handful of impressive victories in a
career spanning 21 seasons on
the European Tour – England's
Mark Roe will be forever remembered
as the man who was disqualified in
the 2003 Open Championship
under the cruellest of circumstances.
Richard Simmons talks to the
player-turned TV analyst
Where did life as a professional golfer start for Mark Roe?
With a big reality check. I turned pro in 1981 thinking I was
pretty good, then went to tour school and realised I was mistaken.
Standing on the range with players like Gordon Brand
Jr and Paul Way I realised I just wasn't good enough. I missed
my card that first year by four or five shots, then went back
home and faced the dilemma a lot of players had back then:
you've turned pro, but missed your card – what do you do? Do
you accept you're not good enough and apply to get your amateur
status back or do you become an assistant and work in a
shop? Those were basically the only options. I was very lucky
in that I knew a professional on the Wirral, Clive Scanlon at
Arrow Park, and he told me he had belief in me as a player and
said I could be his ‘assistant' but basically I could play all the
golf I needed to progress. I was able to stay at home in
Sheffield and play in all the local and regional events.
So you don't exactly have experience as a retailer?
Er, no, not really. Within six months it became apparent to the
PGA that there was a young lad masquerading as an assistant
who seemed to be playing an awful lot of golf but not spending
much time working in the shop. So I had to move from
home to the Wirral, and that was probably the trigger that
defined the improvement of my game and my career as a professional.
I moved out of my comfort zone to a new environment.
At first I stayed in a B&B in New Brighton. It was horrendous,
full of blue rinses. I felt lonely and homesick. But it
was cheap. I used to hit balls on the beach when the tide was
out and one day I had a chance meeting with a local assistant
pro called Ian Higby, who was at Heswell Golf Club. He invited
me around to his house for dinner and as the evening wore
on Peggy, his mum, suggested I sleep on the sofa rather than
go back to my digs. It was nice to be around a family, and that
is what they became – my second family. I slept on that sofa
for two and a half years. When I look back I cannot believe
the sacrifice they made. I started winning regularly and at the
fourth visit to Q School I earned my Tour card in '84, having
won the Liverpool Assistants', Cheshire Open, Cheshire Match
Play, and I played well all year.
You played in the golden era of European golf – Seve,
Faldo, Woosie Lyle & Langer. What was it like embarking
on your career in that period?
While I was elated at the opportunity, I felt like a fish out of
water. Think about it: you've gone from playing in regional
events with your mates to sharing a stage with some of the
best players in the world. You look across the range and
there's Bernhard Langer, or Nick Faldo, Seve. It's unbelievably
daunting. You don't feel like you belong there at all – at
least I didn't. It's like being at school with a defined hierarchy
above you. But at the same time you're right – it was
the golden era for European golf and very exciting for it.
The European Tour was taking off an there were a lot of
great players emerging.
Which added to the pressure of retaining your card?
Massively. The other thing you have to remember is there was
no real money around in those days, not at the lower levels. I
was lucky; I had three and half grand in sponsorship, which
gave me a cushion to start with. But it might only pay for a
quarter of the season. So there was always that sense that you
had to earn money to stay out there. And that puts extra pressure
on you, believe me. I really struggled the first season. I
was good friends with Robert Lee, a very talented player, and
we used to travel together and share expenses. Late in the first season it looked like I was going to lose my card and I
was pretty down on myself as we travelled to the Cannes Open
at Cannes Mougins. Robert had a great week – and would go
on to win his first tournament – and I remember a conversation
which went along the lines of me saying ‘Oh, you're
alright mate, your going to do well this week and you'll be OK.
I'm going to lose my card'. To which he replied, ‘You will lose
your card if you don't relax and learn to enjoy yourself out
there – you're too uptight. Walk along the fairways humming a
song or whistling – you've got to learn to relax to let your talent
come through.' I thought about what he said and I had a
good week, finished in the top-10 and that won me around
£1,100 which helped to keep my card in my first season on
tour, which is an achievement.
Gradually I felt more comfortable
on tour, finished about 39th in
1986 with around £26,000, and
went from there.
Do you remember the first
time you teed it up with one
of the Big Five?
I can clearly remember the first
time I played with Seve. It was at
the Dutch Open at Hilversum in
1987. It was a good week, we
were both teeing up the last round
with a chance to win, and as I
walked to the first tee and I honestly
felt like a Rowntrees jelly. I
didn't feel like I had control of the
muscles in my body. I walked on
to the first tee and shook hands
with the man who was my hero,
I'm first to hit, and my only concern
was getting the ball on the
tee peg, because I had a feeling I
might fumble. I thought ‘just make
contact with it – get it going forward'.
And I actually flushed it up
the middle. Then Seve teed off.
And you know Seve has the most
wonderful capacity for knowing
how you feel. He walked off the
tee with his arm round my shoulder
and said: “Good shot, it's not
easy, is it?” From that moment I
felt I had a friend in Seve. His
advice and help has been with me throughout my career. I
don't remember a huge amount about the round itself, but we
came to the last green and I knew I was a shot or so ahead of
him. Beyond my wildest dreams. I had no more than eight or
ten feet for birdie. I whacked it a foot and a half past and
missed the one back. Seve made a birdie. I shook his hand
but I couldn't speak. We ended up on the same score. I was
gutted. He put his arm around me and told me I'd played
great and this was the start of a good career. I felt about 10
feet tall. You couldn't think of Nick Faldo doing that, or some
of the other guys on tour. That was Seve's way.
When you play in the company of someone like Seve,
what are the special qualities you notice?
As incredibly nervous as I was, I noticed how calm he was. I
noticed just amazing focus in his eyes. And also the sheer
passion and the joy of playing golf. It was almost the harder
the shot, the more he relished the opportunity to show what
he was capable of. That stuck with me. But from a professional
perspective, more than any of that, was the way he
took time to speak to me, to try and calm me down. He's
immensely classy. Obviously his short game was magical, the
spin control and the flight of the ball. You take all those
things on board almost subconsciously. But don't forget, at
the time, you're focusing on trying to win a golf tournament,
so you don't want a masterclass while you're shooting 80.
Is Seve the ultimate golfing hero for you?
Without a shadow of a doubt. He became what I consider a
friend. Through problems off the golf course as well as on it.
That ran through to what I consider my most memorable day
ever in golf, when I played a practice round with Seve on the
Sunday afternoon before the 1996 Masters. He'd promised
me this a couple of years before,
that if I ever made it to Augusta
we'd play a practice round. I didn't
really think any more about it. I
qualified in '96 and Seve was there
on the practice round. He walked
straight over and said: “We tee off in
one hour.” That experience will stay
with me forever, it was goose bumps
on the arm, it was Boy's Own stuff,
watching a true genius navigate the
unique challenges of Augusta
National. That was when you saw
the real imagination of a magician
landing the ball on glass-like surfaces.
I think one year at Augusta
Seve hit six greens and shot 69.
He's a genius.
What would you rank as your
greatest achievement in golf?
In terms of achievement, no win is
more special than another. I won the
Lancome Trophy in 1992 with the
winners of 16 major championships in
the field, so that felt good. Keeping
my card for 21 years is something I'm
proud of, to play 524 tournaments on
the European Tour is quite something.
Only 14 guys have actually done that.
In years to come that will be increasingly
hard to match. Winning the
Catalan Open at Pals in 1989 was
incredibly special to me because my
father was ill at the time and I knew
he wasn't going to get better. For me there was no better way
to repay my parents back for all their support over the years
than to make that call to my dad on the Sunday night to tell
him that I had just beaten Jose Maria Olazabal by a shot to win.
I think he was the most exuberant then he'd ever been in his
whole life. I could hear him shout to my mum, “Phyliss, he
won, he won!” I can still hear him shouting to this day.
Was the Ryder Cup as big a deal in those days as it
seems to be now?
Oh yeah, definitely. I had a realistic opportunity to make the
team on two occasions. Tony [Jacklin] had obviously shaken
things up I the early '80s and there was a real buzz about the
Ryder Cup. Europe were very strong, which obviously didn't
make it any easier to get into the side. 1989 at the Belfry
was probably the one time I really did feel I might get in. I
won the Catalan Open that year, and finished second in the
French, tied with Langer at Chantilly. Philip Walton was 11th
and didn't get in. I think I was around 13th in the Order of
Merit. Jacklin went below me on the table to pick Christy O'Connor Jr. There was much talk in the locker room that
Jacko had picked Christie because he hadn't picked him
before and had taken a lot of stick in the Irish press.
The year Christy hit that glorious 2-iron to the 18th...
There you go. It was meant to be. But I think if Jacklin had
seen me play that year he may have been tempted to include
me. At the end of the day I thought I was in with a shout, but
it's history. I can't grumble. I've played in the World Cup on
three occasions and also the Dunhill Cup under the old format
at St Andrews. I actually beat Greg Norman there head to-
head over the Old Course.
That has to be worth bragging rights?
Absolutely. It was an interesting day. This may have been
1994, the year I won the French Open, and I was really
excited when I saw the draw. Anyway, we get out there and
we're on the first hole and I decided I needed to pace out the
yardage to the burn. I walk back and play my shot on to the
green. A bit later on, at the 5th I think, I carve my second
shot into the bushes and the only place I can drop is on the
New Course, from where I don't have a yardage. So I pace it
to the front edge from where I took my drop, and then
knock it to 20 feet and holed it for par. Greg was on in two
and three-putted. The next hole he hits into a horrible fairway
bunker, couldn't get it out and makes double. I make
birdie. So all of a sudden I'm walking onto the 7th tee and
I'm a couple of shots ahead. As we're walking onto the tee, I
hear Greg say to his caddie, “Hey Tony, what time does it get
dark here?” He's having a pop at me for slow play. He's trying
to wind me up. Tony Navarro says something like “I don't
know Greg, but I think we'll be OK.” As we walk off the tee I
say to Tony, “Are you implying that I'm a slow player?”, and
Greg overhears. He says “Hey, Mark, what's the problem
here?” And I tell him that I think he's having a pop at me
about slow play, to which he replies ‘I thought gamesmanship
was dead and buried on this tour a long time ago'. I go,
“Whoa, whoa. Hang on, Greg, it's not me who's making stupid
friggin' comments here.” And he stomped his foot in the
sand and said “Let's get on with this f*@&ing game.” That
was me all fired up. I said to Jimmy, right, that's it. We're not
talking anymore, let's just get on with the game, we're off. I
really want to beat him. Every hole I was 50 yards ahead of
him. At the 18th we shook hands, 69 to 72. But I heard he'd had dinner with Robert Allenby and told him that no one had
ever got to him on a golf course before. So that was a nice
first – although it was never intentional, it was interesting to
see a legend of the game getting so rattled.
Where have all the characters gone in golf these days?
That's a good question. Fortunately for the game of golf we
do have the odd Ian Poulter, who single-handedly makes the
game colourful. The game has a good image but it's not rich
in terms of characters. The game has changed. Guys are
coming through a much different culture. It may not be a
coincidence that Poults did it the same way I did – i.e.
through the pro shop – and I think maybe you are a bit more
real as a result of that experience. You look at the likes of
Rory McIlroy or Oliver Fisher, they were great as amateurs,
they have been groomed to be tour players, and they're
ready to play, but you can't quite see McIlroy standing in a
corridor in a hotel with a fire hose waiting 45 minutes to let
the hose off and knock a player clean off his feet.
Who did that?
Me [laughs hysterically].
Who did you hit?
Russell Claydon. The biggest player on the European Tour.
He had to be 18 stone.
Oh yeah, easily. This thing knocked him back into his hotel
room. I had no clue how powerful those fire hoses are.
There was a reason for this, presumably?
What had happened was we had sat on the flight together on
the way over and I was reading Jurassic Park. I was loving
it. I don't read many books but this one had me hooked.
Anyway later that evening after dinner I said I was heading
back to the room to finish off the book. I got to the last
chapter and it had gone. Turns out that when I'd nipped to
the loo on the plane Claydon had ripped the last chapter out
of my book. I was steaming. So I thought, right, I know where his room is and I'll get him in the morning. I set my
alarm and was outside in the corridor at 8 waiting for him.
There was a red fire hose in a box on the wall. So I unravelled
it and we're talking a proper fire hose – 3” diameter
pipe. Eventually I hear his door open and I cock the big
brass lock on the hose and this things goes off and hits
Russell in the middle of the chest. It just wiped him out.
Is the modern game to blame for the bland
uniformity of it all now?
You'd have to say yes. Young guys these days seem to be
taught in an almost robotic fashion. They've all got the psychologist
and personal trainer thing going on before they
even get out on Tour. It has become an immense part of the
game. Look at the best golfer in the world, Tiger Woods, and
look at the things that make him great – his fitness, his work
ethic, the way he lives his life – it's no surprise that all young
kids model themselves on that, what they perceive they need
to do to be successful. The old school approach to learning
how to play golf is out of the window. For me, it was a journey.
And I was going to have some fun along the way. I wasn't
going to be a robot. I wanted to be as good as I could be,
but I also wanted it to be fun. A part of that for me was the
practical jokes along the way and a lot of laughs.
Who do you rate out of the current crop of young
Germany's Martin Kaymer. I see him as a great prospect.
Totally fearless. He shot 59 in a German tour event.
Obviously has that ability to go incredibly low. but incredibly
low. I loved the way he tried to catch Tiger in Dubai. He
thought he had, too, with a birdie-birdie-eagle finish. Didn't
quite do it, but what a great prospect. Someone who focuses
on winning, not making money.
And among the Brits?
I rate Oliver Fisher, very highly, a great prospect. I also rate
Oliver Wilson – he's improving all the time. But as a guy who
could be the next Faldo, I think Oliver Fisher is the pick of the
current crop of young players. Zane Scotland is up there too. I
honestly don't think he knows how good he can be.
What has to happen for the likes of Donald, Casey,
Rose and Dougherty to move up a level?
You can't pick and choose when you are going to find that
extra gear that is going to take you from a champion on the
main tour to a major winner. A lot of components have to
click into place and I think all those guys you mention are
capable of winning a major championship. What Casey did
at the Masters...I was so disappointed. He collapsed over the
last 15 holes. They are all good enough so there must some
mental issue that they have to overcome. But the most likely
next major European champion in my book is Lee
[Westwood]. His long game is so good, and nobody finishes
off tournaments better than he does. He played as good as
anybody tee to green at Augusta. If he'd putted well he
would have won.
You feel too many young players make easy money?
There is so much money in the game of golf and it isn't
biased towards winning. Top-10s amass huge amounts of
money. You can do that a few times a year and make a great
pile of cash without having to come up the last with the
pressure of having a chance to win. The world rankings
don't make any sense to me for that reason. Should a player
like Steve Stricker be able to make it to the world No 3 winning
just one event and a few good finishes in the Fed Ex
Series? With all that, should be biased a little more heavily
towards winning. That has to be the goal.
What do you think of the Race to Dubai? Is there not a
danger than it can distort the Order of Merit? Or even
render it meaningless?
I'm all for what George O'Grady is doing with the European
Tour. I think it's fantastic. The thing about the Race to Dubai
is that you'll have to have played very well to make the final
event anyway. There is some talk about increasing the minimum
number of events from 11 in order to maintain membership
of the European Tour, so we'll see what happens
there. I'm on the European Tour Players' Committee and
there is only so much I can say at the moment. It has
become a more global tour, and we are able to play in all
corners of the world is fantastic. You can look at it in a negative
way, but it does provide opportunity for the younger
players. The more established guys are not going to travel as
extensively. Look at Damian McGrane in April – he goes out
to China, has a fantastic week and wins by nine shots.
Is there not a danger that we have lost many of the
major national Opens?
The problem is it is very hard to find sponsor for these tournaments.
What people tend to forget is that if the prize fund
is £1 million, that tournament will cost the sponsor close to
£3 million to put on. That's a lot of money, particularly in
today's climate. That's a big undertaking. So the European
Tour has had to go where the money is – emerging markets
in Asia and China.
Do you think the European Tour will or should become
the World Tour?
We will never compete with America. But the European Tour
is already the second tour in the world. In many ways,
thanks to its variety, you could argue it is more interesting.
Does it simply need rebranding?
We know it is becoming global. It is a world tour in many
respects. Maybe in the future its title will reflect that.
The first name that pops into your head: Who
impresses you most in golf?
And the least?
If you were in control of golf for one day, what would you be most likely to change?
The laws regarding equipment. I would take a big step backwards
with the club and the ball. Technology is totally out of
hand. The golf ball perhaps leads the way more than a lot of
people believe. Look back through history and the ball has
always been the strong part of the development of the game.
Clubs evolved around the ball. The modern ball simply does
not want to spin sideways. There is no variance in flight like
there once was. Balls fly straighter, balls fly further. When you
ally that to the changes in technology and the materials used in
club construction, well, it's ridiculous how far these guys today
hit the ball. Obviously it's a joy for the average club player to
pick up the latest driver and get a kick out of hitting a long
drive. But I think the skill went out of the game at the top level
when the art of shaping shots went, and I blame the R&A
100% for this. The horse has long-since bolted. The manufacturers
run rings around the R&A and now it's too late. We are
one of the few sports in the world that doesn't play a uniform
ball. Why not? I'd agree with Jack [Nicklaus] on this, the ball
has to be looked at very closely and something needs to be
done. Compression wise, dimple pattern wise. The problem is,
I'm inherently old-school, I learnt to play the game shaping the
ball. Now they don't need these skills.
So has technology given players of a lesser skill the
tools they need to compete?
Massively. Technology has brought everyone closer together.
There are players out there who were playing when I started
who were distinctly average, and they are still out there
because technology has assisted them in their ball striking.
Technology has flattered them. On the flip-side of the coin, a
naturally superb striker of the ball like Woosie hasn't benefited
one iota. He was such a pure ball striker he left average
guys 40 yards behind in his prime. The new gear hasn't
helped him, but it's helped lesser ball strikers catch up. This
is why you see cuts come down and scoring is so bunched.
The guys bomb it 360 off the tee into the rough and they
don't care – they hit it out with a wedge and back it up on
the green. It's ridiculous. I heard a very interesting quote
recently, in that Tiger Woods actually practises with an old
persimmon driver and he is of the opinion he would like to
go back and play with equipment as it was 20 years ago. If
we did he'd be even more dominant, there would be more
strength to his capabilities, and the fact that his ball striking
is so good the difference would be magnified. He loves to
change the flight and the shape.
Augusta certainly seems to have suffered?
What should be a living museum of a golf course has been
changed beyond recognition. It's monstrous. The place has
lost a lot of its charm. You don't get the roars ringing out at
Augusta now like you used to – it's all groans as players
bleed shots away. St Andrews needs to be careful it doesn't
go the same way. Extending courses simply plays into the
hands of the big hitters, while penalising the average hitter.
Torrey Pines will measure over 7,600 yards for the US
Open – what's your immediate reaction to that?
My immediate reaction is that the game of golf has become
utterly distorted. Surely the game of golf is about controlling
the golf ball, shaping the golf ball, thinking your way around
the golf course. As far as I can see it's lost its perspective.
You don't need a golf course that long to be tough. Look at
the Open qualifiers held at Sunningdale, or even humble
Effingham where I play. One guy broke par. We're talking
about a traditional style golf course where you have to
shape it and keep it on the fairway and avoid the rough. So
why do you suddenly need 7,600 yards?
What's wrong with a guy shooting
62 if he has the ability?
There's nothing wrong with it! I
personally see that as entertainment.
But on the other hand you
can have some sympathy for the
tournament venues for doing what
they are doing because they are
simply defending themselves
against the onslaught of technology.
If you want to look for someone
to blame you have to lay that
fairly and squarely at the door of
the R&A clubhouse. Unfortunately
they and the USGA are the governing
bodies charged with looking
after the interests of the game
of golf. And they have failed.
We've just seen the first major
of the year – how do you sum
up events at Augusta?
A sheer triumph for Trevor
Immelman. I have known him a
while and I think he is a truly
great player. I played with him and Sergio Garcia in the fourball
championships down in Biarritz one year – Mark Farry
was my partner. At the time Garcia was supposed to be the
up and coming world beater, but I thought Immelman was
the real deal and I can remember saying to Mark that this
guy was better than Garcia by a long stretch. He really
impressed me. And he's a great student of the game. OK, so
Tiger putted like a human being for once in his life, and he
winds up just a couple of shots
back. But Trevor deserved the win. I
was actually on a beach in Captiva
that week so I didn't see an awful
lot. And what I did see was the ABC
coverage with Nick Faldo's commentary.
So I turned the sound
You're not a fan of Faldo's commentary
Well, the thing is, I hold very similar
views to Paul Azinger. To the extent
that I fully agree with the guy. You
know, I switch on the TV, and I hear
this voice on there, which is intelligent,
which it is, informed, at times
tries to be witty...and it's just not the
Nick Faldo I knew as 21 years a
player on tour. I'm not saying that's
wrong, but I do agree with Azinger
in that you cannot simply switch
peoples attitudes back on just to suit
a media career. Nick didn't speak to
me for the better part of five years
and I like to think I was reasonably friendly with him before
that. It was all over a couple of quotes in a magazine article I
had made when he went to play more in America. He never
came and asked me what I had really said. He took the magazine
a face value and blanked me. If he had asked had I
been misquoted, I could have set the record straight. He
knows the way the press work and yet he didn't extend me
the courtesy. I'm not saying we were great friends before that – let's face it Nick wasn't
great friends with anyone – but we
had a relationship of sorts and he
it is very difficult to be aloof for 20
years and then crack a couple of
jokes and think everyone is suddenly
going to be your best mate.
What do you think Nick will be
like as Ryder Cup
Extremely organised. Meticulous.
The ultimate in terms of preparation
ahead of the match. He will
leave no stone unturned in his pursuit
of victory – as he did throughout
his whole career. I think he'll
speak well and do the job that is
required. But I think it will be a
very difficult match for him.
Difficult because the
Americans will be strong or
difficult because he is likely to
have a young and inexperienced
Both. And right now Azinger may have a slight psychological
advantage over Nick in the media. All the banter, the retorts,
it seems 40-love to Azinger at the moment. But Nick commands
a lot of respect on the golfing stage and the young
players will want to do well for him. It's not going to be a
nine-point landslide this time. We will take a good team with
us but it's going to be tough.
How do you begin to put into
context events of July 2003?
To even begin to do that you have
to understand what the Open
always meant to me. The Open is
the highlight of any year. That went
back to my father driving me all
over the country to watch. I saw
some of the most wonderful sporting
occasions. I remember going to
Turnberry in 1977 and watching
the ‘Duel in the Sun' with Nicklaus
and Watson, running all over the
course to sneak a view of these
great champions battling it out.
From that moment I was never
going to be anything but a golf professional.
I remember seeing these
guys, getting their autograph. I was
at the Ryder Cup Walton Heath in
1981 to see one of their greatest
ever teams – Trevino, Watson,
Nicklaus, Player, Miller, Floyd –
what a team. But the Open was special.
I played in 12 in all. I qualified at Gullane for the first
time in 1987, the year Faldo won with 18 straight pars at
Muirfield. I played with Ben Crenshaw in the last round and
he put on the greatest display of putting I have ever seen –
he hit the hole 18 times that round. We started in 40th place,
or thereabouts, he shot 68 and moved to 3rd, I shot 72 and
moved to 16th. I can also remember shooting 68 last round
at St Andrews. That was 1990. I finished 16th and I remember getting into the car and calling my dad to tell him. Of
course he'd died in April that year. I just pulled over to the
hard shoulder and cried my eyes out. The Open always
meant so much to the both of us and the natural thing to do
was ring him.
Fast forward to 2003 at Royal St George's.
Life was good going in to that Open. My private life had
been a little up and down prior to that summer, we had
recently moved from Sheffield down to Leatherhead and life
was finding its balance again. That's something a lot of people
forget when it comes to professional golfers. They are
subject to life and all that it brings. Anyway, we set off for
Sandwich and I remember there was this fantastic house we
saw not long after we set off and I said to Julia: “Tell you
what, I'll win the Open this week and we'll come back and
buy that house.” Anyway I went to St George's, practice felt
great. I love the golf course. It was right up my street, running
hard, a shot-makers course. I didn't have a great first
day, shot 75. The second day I went out and started 3, 3, 3,
3, 3, 3 and had a putt for a three on the 7th. I can remember
thinking ‘this will be the greatest start in Open championship
history'. Missed it, obviously. Wound up shooting 70 and
made the cut comfortably.
Then you were drawn with Jesper Parnevik in the
I had played lots of golf with Jesper, a great guy. And I was
looking forward to this. We were both on the putting green 15
minutes or so before tee off and then I walked to the tee in
plenty of time. I had a chat with Ivor [Robson, official starter]
and he handed me my scorecard. Didn't think any more of it.
Jesper seemed to be taking an eternity to come to the tee and
Ivor actually asked me if I'd seen him. I told him he was on the
putting green with me. Anyway, a minute or so later he arrives
right on the button, a minute to spare. Ivor announces our
match, it's my honour, I stuff the card in my bag and I'm off.
Knocked it down the middle and we were away. I started off
quite nicely, but Jesper wasn't playing so great. He eventually
shot 81. I holed my second shot on the 13th for a two, looked
across and I was top of the leaderboard in the Open. I came
up the last with a putt for 66, two putted for 67. Blew three
kisses as I sometimes did to Julia and the two girls, hoping
they were watching somewhere. We went into the scorers hut
and sat down to do the paperwork. And I mean to the nth
degree. I ticked the scores as I went through them over and
over again. Called the lady scorer and checked with her calling
them out, hole by hole. Two signatures, checked that. Thirty
two and 35 for a 67. Ticked them all off one by one. The official
from the R&A took the card, looked me straight in the eye
and said: “35 + 32 = 67, congratulations, great round Mr
Roe, you're free to go.” And those were his words, still crystal
clear in my head.
Presumably this must have been the greatest buzz in
your tournament career?
Without a doubt. I did the interview with the BBC's Hazel
Irvine, then talked to ESPN. And then a few minutes later a
guy from the R&A came up to me and said there was a problem
in the scorers' hut. As I walked back I was certain I'd
made a mistake on Jesper's card. I knew I hadn't made a
mistake on mine. I'd been over the scores a hundred times.
Jesper had shot 81 – I must have made an error on his card
and I was thinking what I'd say to him. I didn't think he'd be
that upset given the day he's had. So I walk in the scorers
hut, see Jesper and say: “Have I cocked up your card mate?”
“No Roey,” he said, “it's worse than that.” And I'm thinking
what can be worse than that? Then I look down and the two
scorecards are laid on the table. I look down and see it
straight away: Mark Roe 81, Jesper Parnevik 67. And I can't
take it in to start with. Then I said to the R&A's David
Pepper, “We've not exchanged cards have we?” “No,” he said,
“you've written your scores on the wrong scorecards.” I
knew immediately we were both disqualified.
What did Jesper say?
Well, as the R&A guy was apologising, Jesper just went ballistic.
A fit of expletives. “This is bullshit. In today's game
you know that the scores we have recorded are correct” and
so on. Other than what was coming out of Jesper's mouth
there was a stunned silence in the cabin. I said Jesper, “It's
OK. It's my mistake and you have to apply the Rules of Golf.
And I have to accept it.” So then I had to come back out to
do all the interviews again as someone now not playing in
the Open Championship. I left. Got in the car and drove
home. I can't say I drove home slowly because I didn't, I drove home very quickly. Stopped to buy a bottle of rose
champagne. Walked in the house and Julia didn't know what
to say to me. I just sat on my beanbag and drank the champagne
until I fell asleep.
Did you watch it the next day?
That was almost worse. We watched Thomas [Bjorn] leading
and then have that disaster in the bunker at 16. And I felt so
deeply for him because we're good pals. If I wasn't going to
have my chance of playing with Tiger in the last round of the
Open – whom I would have been paired with, two shots
behind the leaders – I wished he'd won. Instead Ben Curtis
wins. A total outsider. Made me think what might have been.
Once it was all done and dusted I went upstairs and cried my
eyes out for an hour.
Was that the only time you've been disqualified?
No, I had a Rules infringement at the Irish Open. I took a
club-length's drop from a sprinkler head by the green,
unaware they'd changed the rule to nearest point of relief. I
was actually going to drop at nearest point and then my
playing partner, Ken Brown, said to me “You know you've
got a club-length.” So I dropped it within a club-length and
then John Paramour called me that night while I was in the
bath to tell me I'd been seen on TV taking an incorrect drop
and I was disqualified. (Thanks, Ken).
Have the R&A changed the Rule relating to the
They have. They called me afterwards to say how much they
appreciated the way I handled it all. I got a lot of support letters
and cards from all over the world. One I remember was from a
steelworker in Pennsylvania who said that he didn't know me,
was never likely to meet me, but that he was watching the coverage
on TV and the way I handled it all made him very proud.
And he understood why his father had introduced him to golf –
because it was a gentlemen's sport. David Rickman called me
last year to say that there were now processes in place that
would mean it will never happen again. So at least I have contributed
to a change in the Rules in a positive way.
A situation like that simply highlights how
incredibly stupid they can be.
Absolutely. Under the scrutiny of the TV cameras, two guys have
played a round of golf, written their scores correctly down on a
card, with an official scorer doing the same over 18 holes, and
just because you haven't swapped cards you are eliminated.
Which Rule of Golf would you change given
One Rule? Allowing caddies to line players up from behind
the shot. Surely your alignment and standing to the ball is
part and parcel of the skill involved. It happens on the men's
tour and it's ever-present on the ladies circuit. I'm sorry,
that's ridiculous. It's a very important skill of the game. Can
you imagine someone standing behind Ronnie O'Sullivan
helping him aim his cue?
You retired in 2006 at the Dunhill Links – easy decision
In the end it was, thanks to a combination of factors. The game
was changing, the tour becoming more global, involving more
travel, which I was not enjoying. Remember, I'd been out there
for 21 years, which is a long time. I was missing the children
and beginning to resent getting in the taxi and leaving the family
on a Tuesday morning. My wife, Julia, not having a normal family
relationship, being on her own to bring the children up. I
wanted more balance in that regard. And also inside of me I
knew that the desire to work at it was waning a little bit. For all
the joking around I did work hard, and that was no longer the
case. I needed to draw a line under it, I'm not the sort of person
who can just drift. I wanted some clarity and so decided that as
St Andrews was the place I love more than anywhere else I
thought that was the place to call it a day. Bring it full circle. I
was desperate to make the cut, which I did. In the end I finished
14th, shot 67 in my final competitive round. And that was just
magical. My wife and the girls were there as I came off the final
green, and I couldn't imagine ending it any better.
Do you miss it?
No. Not the travelling, not the lifestyle. I was fortunate to get
involved with Sky Sports, and it's been fantastic. I'm back working
with my mate Robert Lee, the lovely Di Stewart and two great
coaches in Denis Pugh and Simon Holmes – it's a great team.
There's a learning curve with that presumably?
Yes. Golf Night is a live TV show, so you have to be comfortable
doing live TV. There's a settling in period certainly. It
takes a while to be yourself.
Do you think Sky have the right format?
I can't speak for viewers, but I enjoy the shows and the feedback
I get is that people who watch the show enjoy it. We all
do our research, just as you would prepare for a tournament.
You try to do the best job you can. At the end of the day you
cannot control other people's opinions. It's an excellent team
and I feel very lucky to have walked out of playing golf and
into a new career in the media where I always enjoy going to
work. There are some exciting things in the pipeline.
In addition to that you've earned something of a reputation
as a short game guru?
It was no plan of mine to be helping anyone with their game
but there I was up at Loch Lomond with Ewan Murray last
year and Lee Westwood comes in to the locker room and we
started chatting. He was hitting the ball great but his short
game was terrible. I told him there were loads of things he
could do to improve. He asked me to help him and it was
that chance meeting that set me off as a short game coach.
Funnily enough, Marc Warren asked me to help his bunker
play the same week. Stats tell you that between 2004 to
2006/7 I was the best bunker player out of traps on any
tour. I feel comfortable with the short game, so I'm comfortable
talking about it. I like the creativity involved.
So maybe Seve had more effect on your career than
even you realised?
I'd like to think so.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine